Skip to main content

5 Ways to Strengthen Your Community Management Strategy And Build Lasting Connections

As the features, capabilities and influence of social media continue to expand, so do the opportunities to connect with your customers and brand fans. That bodes well for the 43% of marketers whose primary goal for social is increasing community engagement. But how do you build that community in the first place? And how do you turn engagement into connections that last?

For starters, it’s important to recognize that your community is not synonymous with your target audience. Your target audience represents a group of people you’ve identified as likely customers to whom you cater your ads and messaging around. Your community on the other hand, is made up of people you’ve already won over—whether that’s as a fan, follower, customer or full-on brand ambassador.

Brand communities also aren’t restricted to social media channels and groups. Companies of all shapes and sizes use blogs, learning portals, forums and other outlets to serve as their community’s home base.

Community managers or the people managing those communities are brand advocates that act as a liaison between their brand and the community. They connect community members to one another, moderate discussions and contribute resources that strengthen their community, and in the process, build loyalty and trust in the brand.

When done right, a community brings together like-minded people in one place, adds value to their every member’s life and fosters emotional connections between a brand and people.

To further understand how to make valuable contributions, develop meaningful relationships and build a strong community management strategy, we spoke to two top community managers who shared the following five tips.

Make your community members feel welcomed and wanted

When we join a community, we want to feel a sense of belonging. Community managers play a huge role in creating that welcoming atmosphere.

Brigid Colver is the Senior Community Manager at Glint, a B2B software company that supports employee engagement at their client’s organizations. Glint customers have access to a private community where members can access how-tos, product resources, help and insights from the rest of the community. And for Colver, creating a welcoming environment empowers peer-to-peer engagement, which is her North Star.

“A mentor once told me ‘It’s all about relationships,’ and it’s so true. Communities are made up of individuals, so community managers need to put in the work to develop friendly, professional relationships with individual members,” said Colver. “I host monthly Welcoming Sessions to meet new members and give them a tour, and small-group roundtable events. I also send a monthly newsletter to highlight conversations, members, and resources of interest. And any time someone tags or emails me, I always make it a point to reply in an individualized, friendly way.  These tactics have really helped me to get to know individuals in a really personal way.”

Making people feel welcome in a community, in part, calls for representation. Especially for brands who have committed to diversity, equity and inclusion, this promise needs to carry over into your brand communities as well.

Sephora’s Beauty Insider Community is over four million people strong and there is no shortage of representation within it. Members can join specific groups that align with their beauty interests, skin type, hair type, gender identity, parental status and so much more. It’s clear just by scrolling through the community’s home page that all are welcome here.

To ensure that you’re maintaining a positive, productive and safe atmosphere, establish community rules, norms and contingencies. There should be no room or exceptions for hate speech, spam, bullying and any other behavior that puts inclusivity on the line. A community manager should always take the lead in setting the tone, however, it’s also beneficial to appoint additional moderators who can step in and enforce those rules if needed.


Listen to understand the needs of your community

One of the tenets of community management is regularly monitoring comments, inbound messages and contributions from your community members. This is also an opportunity to get to know your community personally and identify what topics capture their attention..

Christina Garnett, Senior Marketing Manager, Offline Community & Advocacy at HubSpot and an active contributor to the #MarketingTwitter community stresses the importance of really listening to what people are saying.

“Understanding the needs of your community is everything. How can you provide value if you first don’t know what they are missing or need? You need to know their pain points, goals, and how they use your product or service to make their life better. If you understand how you integrate into their life, you can proactively prepare for less favorable experiences and also take action to improve.”

For your communities on social, Sprout Social’s Smart Inbox and engagement features can help streamline the monitoring process and ensure that you never miss an important message. In the Smart Inbox, community managers can add message tags to track relevant themes that come up, which can help inform the resources you share within your community.

Give your community a reason to stay engaged

The main reason most people will join a brand’s community in the first place is to get something of value in return. For Colver’s community members, the knowledge from their peers and the resources that help them to get the most out of Glint’s product is reason enough to keep members invested in the community. Sephora’s Beauty Insiders get rewards and exclusive content.

It all comes back to knowing your audience. “How are you empowering your community members? Entertaining them? Encouraging them? How are you fostering the behavior of the community? How do members interact with each other?” asked Garnett. “The answers to those questions and what you’re providing for your community need to align with their needs.” 

GymShark’s community is very active, physically and digitally. Just by looking at the about section in the Facebook Group, members get a clear sense of the gains that they’ll get by joining the community—it’s a place for communication, motivation, encouragement and inspiration. There are workouts to learn, progress pictures to celebrate and recognitions like “Member of the Month” to keep people coming back.

For brands on Twitter, Sprout’s Trends Report shows the hashtags and topics that are trending across the mentions and replies for your connected profile). It also shows the people and brands that are most frequently talking about and mentioned with your business. This is a great way to identify potential brand ambassadors, surface topics that drive engagement and spark inspiration for what community members want to see.

Don’t chase growth just for the sake of growth

For many community managers, membership growth is one of several important goals. And with Sprout Analytics, community managers can easily measure the followers they’ve gained or lost in a reporting period and how that compares to previous periods.

The number of total members, however, should not be community managers’ only goal. 

“Growth is an important outcome that shows we are providing something of value that attracts new members, but it’s not our top priority,” said Colver. “It’s more important that we see our members asking for and sharing advice in an ongoing and sustainable way, talking to one another at our roundtable events and liking one another’s shared content.”

Similarly, Garnett places an emphasis on the value-first approach to community management: “A community will grow when its existence improves its members’ daily lives. When you become a positive, integral part of their day, that’s when they’ll want to share the ‘magic’ they feel with others. They become ambassadors for community growth.”

As Garnett poetically puts it, “As community managers plant seeds for their community, the flowers they have helped grow will, in turn, pollinate other flowers for the community. Focus on relationships within the community and empower members to be a part of the growth process.”

One way to gauge whether or not your community finds value in the content you provide is to track engagement on each post. With Sprout’s Post Performance Report, community managers can measure clicks, likes, comments, shares, engagement rate and other engagement metrics that speak to the quality of your content and community relationships.

Ask questions and embrace feedback

Getting your community members to engage can be as simple as asking questions. If you follow Sprout on social, you might have noticed that our team regularly poses questions about the social media industry. The answers are for the community, by the community. An added bonus is that the responses give our organization an understanding of the insights, trends and considerations that are top of mind for our audience.

Community managers can encourage engagement by publishing polls in social media stories or posts, going live to chat with the community in-real-time, creating exclusive member events and more.

If your goal as a community manager is to create the best experience possible for your community, embrace feedback—it is a gift. “Community managers have an incredibly tough job and it’s easy to be purely reactive. But when you are dealing with happy, neutral, and unhappy customers, you need to take the time to learn why they feel the way they do,” said Garnett. “People want to be heard and know that their concerns are seen as valid. Even negative feedback offers an opportunity to learn and repair a relationship.”

Within Sprout’s Smart Inbox, users can tag inbound messages, which enables them to track FAQs, common complaints, sentiment and more. Then, with data from the Tag Report, they can hone in on specific feedback trends and use those findings to build content that proactively addresses your community’s needs.

Build better, stronger, more valuable relationships

As a community manager, you are one of the first points of contact for your brand’s fans. You’re an ally to your customers, a brand advocate, a relationship builder, a moderator and so much more. And if you ever need a little help from your friends, join Sprout Social’s Agency Exchange and Social Marketers’ Exchange on Facebook to connect with other marketing professionals.

Want to try out the engagement features in Sprout that can make community management a breeze? Request a demo here.